Story from History: Being Rich and Polite

Hong Yi

PureInsight | October 1, 2006

[] In Lunyu
it is recorded that when Zi Gong asked Confucius what he thought of
people who were rich but not arrogant, Confucius said that, while he
applauded such a person, he felt it was more important for a wealthy
person to be polite.


According to Zuo Zhuan, Zheng
Kingdom's Zi Xi was very impolite. Because of his wealth, he often
bullied others and looked down upon his superiors. In the end he had
the pitiful fate of having his corpse thrown into the wilderness.
Likewise, the Wei Kingdom's Gongshu Zi, being rich and overbearing,
offended King Ling of Wei. In the end he was exiled. Throughout
history, there were very few rich people who were not overbearing.
Their rudeness brought them resentment and trouble.

Zuo Zhuan tells the story of a
man was named Qing Feng. His getting richer and richer was not a
blessing from the heaven but, instead, it was a punishment. He wasn't
able to escape his fate of being killed, moreover he got his son killed
too. On the contrary, the Qi Kingdom's Prime Minister, Yan Zi,
understood the principle of “Rich people cannot become conceited,
otherwise it's inviting death." He maintained his integrity and refused
to accumulate even more wealth. The wise believe that, for those who
are rich and cruel, the increase of wealth is not a reward but rather a

There's nothing wrong with being rich, as it is a part of one's fate.
But if one acts without restraint when it comes to his wealth, he will
invite trouble. If people can get rid of their conceitedness and
boastfulness, remove their mean and stingy mindset, melt their anger,
and block their desire and greed, then they are likely to enjoy five
fortunes: longevity, wealth, health, virtue and a good ending.

Therefore, even though being wealthy is a good thing, if one does not
behave well, enjoys luxury, becomes overbearing, does not follow the
proper human rituals, becomes even greedier and stingier, then being
wealthy is a misfortune.

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